In Florida, hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. During this period, a storm can hit at any time, causing massive destruction. It’s important to plan for storm season in Florida. If you’re in a storm’s path, you may be ordered to evacuate your home and seek shelter in a safer location.

To help Florida seniors understand how to stay safe and comfortable when evacuating during a hurricane, we sat down with Keith Kotch, acting emergency manager for the Orange County Office of Emergency Management.

Here are his tips on building a hurricane evacuation kit, finding a shelter that suits your needs, and staying informed during a storm.

Q. What do Florida seniors need to know about evacuation orders?

A. They’re not technically “orders.” It’s kind of a misnomer. When an evacuation order is issued, we can’t force you to leave your home or property, Kotch said. But he advises Florida seniors to heed the instructions of local authorities, especially if you live in a manufactured home or other potentially vulnerable structure.

Q. What should Florida seniors pack in their hurricane evacuation kit?

A. The most important item in your hurricane evacuation kit is drinking water, Kotch says. Specifically, he recommends having one gallon per person per day for seven days. Do not forget your pets, Kotch said. They will need water, too. Other supplies to have include canned goods and a manual can opener, battery-powered flashlights and radios, and extra batteries.

Q. When should Florida seniors start building their evacuation kit?

A. Don’t wait until you’re in a storm’s path to start building your evacuation kit. The stores will be crowded and supplies will go quickly. Kotch recommends stockpiling in advance. Purchase a gallon of water and a shelf-stable food every time you go to the store until you have the recommended supply.

Q. What about important paperwork?

A. When evacuating, Kotch recommends Florida seniors take copies of important papers like deeds, birth certificates and insurance policies. Before leaving, he suggests taking photos of your home and belongings in case you have to make an insurance claim.

Q. Should seniors bring medications with them when they evacuate?

A. Yes! Have at least two weeks’ worth of all medications, supplies and medical equipment. Talk to your doctor about getting a paper copy of all your prescriptions as you may not be able to use your regular pharmacy after a storm, Kotch said. If you’re a caregiver, you’ll also want to bring copies of your loved one’s medical information, including diagnoses, physicians and prescribed medications.

Q. What can Florida seniors expect from a hurricane shelter?

A. It’s an emergency shelter, not housing. In Orange County, Kotch said the shelters don’t provide cots, and seniors should bring their own blankets, air mattresses and bedding. Should the shelter become full, you can expect to have 20 square feet of space, he said. If the power goes out, the shelter won’t have air conditioning. Many also don’t accept pets. When a storm is approaching, check your county’s website to see which shelters are open near you.

Q. Are there hurricane shelters for Florida seniors with special needs?

A. If you have a medical condition that requires assistance, such as oxygen, dialysis or insulin injections, Kotch recommends evacuating to a special needs shelter. He says each county in Florida is required to maintain a special needs registry and suggests signing up. This will help emergency management teams ensure they have the staff and supplies necessary to provide you with care. According to Kotch, caregivers, families and even domestic pets are allowed to accompany the person with special needs. In Orange County, if you are on the special needs registry, Kotch said, you will get a call prior to a storm to see if you need help getting to the shelter. You can learn how to register for your county’s special needs services by visiting their website.

Q. Are there any other evacuation options for Florida’s seniors during a hurricane?

A. Seniors can reach out to friends and family members who live in a safe location to see if they can weather the storm there. You might also be able to book a hotel room in another city. Seniors and their caregivers can also arrange for a respite stay at an assisted living community. At Sonata Senior Living, all of our emergency management plans are approved by the county and city. Our communities are also powered by backup generators, and we provide a week’s worth of food and water for each resident. Whatever your evacuation plans, make sure your car is fully gassed and your tires are in tip-top shape.

Q. How can Florida seniors track a hurricane’s status?

A. In addition to a battery-powered radio, Kotch suggests downloading your county and city’s emergency management apps. For example, Lake County offers an app called AlertLake, which keeps residents informed about dangerous weather. The National Weather Service also offers an emergency notification alert app.

As part of a statewide notification initiative, each county in Florida offers its own emergency alert service. Visit https://apps.floridadisaster.org/alertflorida/ to learn how to subscribe for notifications in your county.

Learn how to stay safe during storm season in Florida. During a hurricane, staying informed is the top priority, Kotch said. Your phone can help you stay connected to the world.

To learn more about arranging a respite stay during a hurricane or other weather emergency, contact us today.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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